Boy you learn a lot in every marathon. I’ve been running marathons for say 25 years and I’m never surprised that each race teaches me something new. The 2014 Boston Marathon was like no other, with huge crowds and an outpouring of community spirit. This one was a new experience for me as I as woefully under-trained. I had pretty much planned to walk the Newton Hills, I just hadn’t also planned to walk the three miles before and after them.
Here are five things that I can pass along to all of you from my run-walk-shuffle-jog from Hopkington to Boston — most of which won’t be useful to you, but I hope you enjoy them anyway.1) Boston’s Really Tough — You rarely hear people talk about their finish times in Boston. You do hear people talk about “Heartbreak Hill”, that mythical monster of a climb that looms at mile 21. But really it’s not any one hill that makes this course a killer. It’s the combination of lots of downhill and lots and lots of short ups and downs throughout the course that trash your legs. If you want to see just what makes it tough, look at the hill profile that I’ve attached here. Note the overall downhill trend for more than the first half of the course, but all of those little jagged ups in there as well. Key learning: “Boston is tough. Boston is never boring.”
2) Find a Walking Buddy — I don’t usually walk in marathons, but I kind of knew that my legs were not going to last. Here’s a tip: when you are walking along the side of a race with people passing you, the crowd kinda “stares” at you. Sometimes they clap, but often they sort of look away awkwardly as if to say, “It’s ok little buddy,” with a tap on your head. I quickly learned that if you walk with someone else, then it doesn’t feel so weird. I will add here that if you pick someone that looks even worse than you, then you sort of look like you are ‘escorting’ them and that feels a little better somehow (although you will still be in whatever pain that ails you). Key learning: “Never walk alone. Misery loves company.”
3) Wear a “USA” T-shirt — If you want to get people to really yell for you, then just wear something that says “USA” on it. The chants of “USA, USA, USA” were constant along the course as I made my way along. Of course, if you don’t want this attention then you may want to avoid wearing an American Flag or the letters “USA”. While I was in the midst of walking, some of the chants took on a bit more of a consoling tone like, “It’s OK USA, we’re proud of you anyway.” I found that if people said that and I started to jog a little bit, then they went wild. Key learning: “A little American pride can take you a long way.”
4) Water Sounds Different in Boston — The people in the aid station will yell this word that you may not recognize. It’s sounds like this: “Waaaaaah-tah”. I figured out about 6 miles through the race they were saying “water”. Key learning: “Just go with it.”
5) Boston is About the People – The fans in Boston are amazing. They chant. They scream. They yell funny things at you. The have signs that say things like, “If a marathon were easy, they’d call it your mother” and “Go Random Stranger.” They offer you beer, doughnuts and cigarettes. The Wellesley Girls are so loud that they will make your head spin. Leave your headphones at home. Key learning: “Boston rocks. Boston Strong.”
The people of Boston put on one hell of a marathon this year. Everyone should run this one once, but keep in mind that it is a tough one! Go to Boston for the people and the experience, rather than for the time.
Coach Joe English